This is a summary of an article that originally appeared here on Forbes.
On March 11, 2020, Major League Baseball cancelled its spring training and postponed the start of its 2020 season due to COVID-19. The same day, the NBA suspend its current season, and NHL followed suit by suspending its current season.
Here are a few examples of how the digital marketing teams of these sports organizations shifted their marketing plans to keep their fans engaged, even during this time.
After the Giants’ social media marketing team took a break, they resumed with their messaging emphasizing love, kindness, and humanity. Rather than promoting a sports game, they urged fans to come together as a community, support front-line workers and medical workers, and for everyone to be safe.
To keep fans engaged, the marketing team hosted a digital event on April 3, what would have the Giants’ home opener, and joined the MLB’s Opening Day at Home program. The actual online celebration featured the national anthem performed by Jacob Peavy, son of former Giants pitcher Jake Peavy, a replay of a classic Giants game, and ballpark classics played by Oracle Park organist Steve Hogan. The event also featured information about the Giants community’s extensive support of families affected by COVID-19.
The social media team of the Golden State Warriors realized that they had a global fan base and a global audience online. Digital marketing and social media act as loud mouthpieces for communicating with huge segments of their fans. Therefore, the Warriors put their social media on hiatus to reconsider their marketing approach. They looked at the examples of European soccer clubs who had already their seasons suspended and spoke with senior management as well as the team’s sponsors, to give them the choice to pause their advertising without penalty or to rework it into a digital format.
One sponsor, Kaiser Permanente, teamed with the Warriors to produce a series of short COVID-19 preparedness videos in order to get the messaging out in a way that would resonate with fans and helped Kaiser Permanente reach an audience they might not have otherwise.
Rather than pause its social media, the Phoenix Suns chose to continue to stay connected to fans with a weekly digital marketing campaign. One such campaign was Valley Chatz, wherein Suns players joined the Mercury, the Phoenix WNBA team, for online conversations with fans during the hiatus.
The team used Oracle Eloqua campaign automation software to promote the events through email and built a registration form for fans to suggest questions for the interviewer to ask the players.
On April 28, National Superhero Day, Monumental Sports and Entertainment asked players from the Washington Capitals to choose a job category—healthcare workers, grocery clerks, police officers, firefighters, and postal and municipal workers—and record a personal thank-you message. Fans could choose a video, add their own recording of thanks to an essential worker they knew, and the team at Monumental Sports and Entertainment would send them an e-card.
Monumental Sports and Entertainment built the mailing list, the website, and mailed the e-cards to individual fans using Oracle Eloqua. Since then, they have continued to use Oracle Eloqua to invite fans to weekly events, including Zoom conversations and Facebook Live meetings with players, simulated games, and the NBA’s Workout Wednesdays, with an 88% open rate on those emails from season ticket holders.
The crisis has allowed the teams’ digital marketers to reimagine how they do their marketing and connect with fans. It has pushed them to innovate and will likely influence new ideas for how fans can experience the game when play resumes.
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